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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE    CHINESE    PEOPLE                    23
people in inventing gunpowder and finding its best use in making firecrackers for their grandfathers' birthdays is merely symbolical of their inventiveness along merely pacific lines. The preference for daintiness over power in art has a physical basis in man's lessened vitality and mellowed instincts, and the preference for reasonableness over aggressiveness in philosophy may be actually traceable to the rounded chin and the amorphous face.
So also have the contempt for physical prowess and sports and the general dislike of the strenuous life intimately to do with man's decreased bodily energy, especially in the city-living bourgeois class. This is easily observable in a street car crowd or a faculty meeting, where Europeans and Chinese are placed in a row side by side. Unhygienic forms of living and the general overeating on the part of the bourgeois Chinese account, in many cases, for the drooping shoulders and the listless eye. The constitutional differences between European and Chinese children at school age are unmistakable-On the athletic field, it is invariably found that boys who have a European father or mother distinguish themselves by their greater swiftness, agility and general exuberance of energy, while they seldom excel in tests of endurance and never in scholastic attainments. The much vaunted bossing of the Hankow Nationalist Government in 1927 by a man called Borodin is due to the simple fact that the energetic Russian, who is taking merely a second-rate place at home, did three times the work of a Chinese-official, and could talk the Chinese leaders to sleep until the latter had to give in in order to be let alone.
Many Europeans in Shanghai wonder why they are dropped by their Chinese friends without realizing the simple reason that the latter are not able to stand the strain of a long and exciting conversation, especially when it is in a foreign language. Many a Sino-European partnership, matrimonial or commercial, has been wrecked on the European's impatience with Chinese stodgy smugness and the Chinaman's impatience with the European's inability to keep still. The way in which American jazz-band conductors shake their knees and European passengers pace a steamship deck is, to the Chinese, highly ridiculous.